Spinning and weaving in Bannerman Park after the Great Fire
How the School of Industry helped people get back on their feet
When 12,000 people were left homeless by the Great Fire of 1892, many of them camped out in Bannerman Park — the same place where some learned how to put their lives back together.
After the fire, the School of Industry was set up in Bannerman to help teach women weaving, knitting and spinning skills — crucial for families left homeless and destitute.
It affected so many people, and the community really came together and helped people survive.- Beverly Barbour
"They would learn all those skills, and that would give them a way to make a livelihood," said Beverly Barbour, who works at the Anna Templeton Centre for Craft, Art and Design.
On Saturday, the school was recreated with weaving and spinning demonstrations at St. John's City Hall. The demonstration was planned to be held in Bannerman Park itself, but while fire forced people into the park in 1892, rain forced them out of it in 2017.
At City Hall on Saturday, wool was turned into fleece and spun into yarn or made into felt, explained Barbour.
"Once you have your fleece spun into a yarn, or a long string … then there's different things you can do with it," she said, including knitting and weaving.
The stone Anna Templeton Centre itself survived the great fire. It housed a succession of banks over the decades, but when the Bank of Montreal vacated in 1992, it was turned over to the city, and the Anna Templeton Centre was born, where traditional skills like weaving and knitting are kept alive today.
Community came together
"It's a beautiful building. There's a lot of great history," said Barbour. "It makes for a beautiful, creative space because it is a beautiful space to work in. There have been stories of ghosts, which are always interesting, and I guess the stories have been embellished themselves over the years too, who knows."
Remembering the School of Industry was an important part of this weekend's events marking the 125th anniversary of the fire, said Barbour.
"If you think of Bannerman Park being a big tent city, people losing everything — it affected so many people, and the community really came together and helped people survive," she said.